Frances Kuffel has a killer sense of humor, which you need if you’re a 53-year-old female writer living in New York City, wear size 22, eke a living from irregular adjunct teaching and regular dog walking, live in an apartment nicknamed ‘the Bat Cave’ (just as dark, but a lot smaller) with a shedding, large, racist, ageist Labrador retriever named Daisy.
It’s even more stressful if you’re using online dating services to find a nice, single guy “whose baggage,” as she puts it, “can be wedged into the overhead compartment.”
There are many ironic moments in Kuffel’s fourth memoir, Love Sick: A Memoir of Searching for Mr. Good Enough (Berkely Trade, 2014). Set four years ago, it follows Kuffel as she winds her way through a wild variety of Internet dating sites, turning up all flavors of fruitcake, from a shoe-fetishist and a feeder (Google it) to a Benin-based scammer to a devout Orthodox Jew whose last girlfriend was an ex-nun.
Part of what motivates Kuffel is the desire to mend her heartbreak from Dar, a soul mate who dumped her. “The best way to get over a man is to start dating another man,” she writes. On the other hand, she notes “Getting hurt is the norm in dating.”
Two-thirds of the way through the book, she writes, “So far, I’d been courted by jerks, freaks, fundamentalists and criminals, but my luck was about to run out.” Hard as she is on her dates, though, she’s harder on herself. “It’s easy for me to go from thinking of myself as “A Wrong Woman to THE Wrong Woman to just plain, Wrong,” she writes. Additionally, the Black Dog of depression is hardly unknown to her. Still, she still manages to make her situation incredibly funny.
When I had a chance to talk to her, I hoped that things were better than when I left her at the end of her book.
BOOKTRIB: How are you doing these days? Are you still dog-walking in New York City?
FRANCES KUFFEL: Sometimes life changes very quickly. I do social media for nonfiction writers and suddenly that’s become a sustainable living. I’ve decided to move back to my hometown, Missoula, Montana, in the spring of 2015—I want a better quality of life than I have in the Bat Cave—and I want to be near family and the mountains. I want another Lab! In the meantime, I’m taking theology courses as I prepare to start writing my next book. And I’m busy getting clients established.
BT: Are you dating? Is it going well? Are you over Dar?
FK: I’m anxious and scared and excited and in no mood to date. I’m too impermanent and too involved in work and introspection. I’m at peace with that because it’s my decision.
Dar read an excerpt of Love Sick online in advance of publication, and sent me a receipt for the copy he’d pre-ordered. I hadn’t heard from him in four or five years and it was a jolt. He loved the book, but his intrusion into my life on the eve of publication sort of ruined the experience as I went from breathless, to angry, to trying to be the friend he needed at that moment when no one else could listen to him the way I can, to flirting, to trying to shrug him off, to…no, I’m not really over Dar. But I put a certain amount of energy into not thinking about him.
BT: What would you tell a single woman who is thinking of moving to New York City?
FK: Save money in advance or make a lot of money. Decide ahead of time why you want to move here. If it’s for your career, great. If it’s for the classical performing arts or the museums, great. If it’s for Broadway, you can get that in any large-ish city. Get a game plan of what you want to do that will hook you up socially. Join a gym, take classes, get involved in your new neighborhood’s preservation efforts. Be nice to every clerk, bank teller, dry cleaner, deli owner—all the people you come into contact with on a more or less daily basis. They can help you out in times of trouble.
BT: Since the book was written, have you heard back from the men you describe? What’s their reaction?
FK: Most of the men I dated were, frankly, too self-involved to make a note to look for it. Or they may not have appreciated it if I ravaged them for being assholes. Even men I became friends with on Facebook (which is not a declaration of much) haven’t responded, and my Facebook icon is the book jacket.
BT: One of the messages of the book is that friends are better/more important than dates. Is that true?
FK: Until a man is bona fide boyfriend, I think every woman should abide by that rule. It’s possible women should abide by that rule no matter what their love status is.
BT: What were you and your friends up to this summer?
FK: My sister-in-law and I talked ourselves hoarse in Missoula and took a gorgeous drive down the Bitterroot Valley, where we took pictures to our hearts’ content—we’re both avid photographers—and we took a float down the Clark Fork, which was peaceful and beautiful. But mostly it was a quiet summer with intense work hours. And one of the reasons I’ve decided to move is that I have more social context in Missoula—I want to be up to something.